The February 2024 issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Assessment in the Collegiate Choral Classroom” by Andrew Bruhn. Following is a portion from the article.
College choirs often inspire other choral musicians by modeling excellence through artistic performances. Likewise, collegiate conductors can provide inspiring pedagogical models through the ensembles they lead and the classes they teach. Among the various aspects of pedagogy, this article describes forms of assessment used by experienced collegiate choral conductors focused on two areas of particular interest. First, in what ways do these forms of assessment focus on the musical quality of the ensemble as a whole? Second, how do these forms of assessment focus on the growth of individual singers in the group?
Knowing how to assess and especially grade in an artistic discipline can be difficult. Professor of Music Education Janet Barrett points out that “Grades are a consistent conundrum for music teachers.”1 Although grading is a responsibility of educators, assessment is a larger and more holistic process. The differences between assessment and grading as presented in this article suggest that assessment is the process of measuring student learning and providing quality feedback, whereas “grading” involves a process of reducing the rich evidence of learning into a single value (i.e., letter grade).2 In most other academic courses (even music-related courses such as music theory or music history) assessment and grading are solely focused on the individual’s work for the class. Music ensembles are distinctive because they involve a relationship between the conductor assessing the ensemble while also providing opportunities for individual growth.
While there are objective realities (correct and incorrect notes and rhythms), other subjective issues such as vocal quality can be potentially simple to assess but challenging to grade. Assessment takes time; something we are all short on. Because of this, it can be tempting to overlook formalized assessment and only provide verbal feedback to the ensemble rather than maximizing the growth of individual singers.
Read the full article in the February 2024 issue of Choral Journal. acda.org/choraljournal